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Disclaimer: They belong to Joss.

Rating:  R (Please note the change in rating.  You have been warned.)

Pairings:  Jayne/River, Mal/Inara


Precious Commodity



Ch. 4 Flying Without Wings


River skidded to a stop in the corridor ten feet from the entrance to the main lounge.   With her head tilted she concentrated all her efforts on listening and feeling. She could hear Jayne’s deep masculine voice very near and he was clearly distressed. There was another person present, who spoke in hushed tones, which made it impossible for the girl to identify who it was.

Survival instinct sent her shivering back against the bulkhead.  Her brain didn’t have to tell her fingers to disengage the safety on her gun. They did it of their own accord.  Moving with stealth, she sniffed the air as she crept along until she was almost to the door.  Jayne’s tone carried a message of danger, but her mind couldn’t feel any in the immediate area or near future. Self preservation won out as she readied for action. Seconds later she sprang and landed in a crouch, ready to fire at the unknown person who had dared come aboard Serenity uninvited.


“Easy there, girl,” Jayne called out as he quickly grabbed her wrist pointing her gun hand toward the deck.  “It’s just Inara, come for a visit.”  He wrestled the weapon from her fingers and glared at her.  “And I thought I told ya to keep the damn safety on this thing!”


“Give me back my gun.”  River shook with anger and embarrassment. 


“You’ll get it back when it’s just you and me on this here boat.”  He stuck the pistol in the back of his belt and dared her to challenge him.  “I don’t want no accidents while we got company.”


“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”  The Companion stepped between the glaring pair.  It was apparent the mercenary had been correct in his assessment. The girl was skittish and easily frightened.  Though, the Captain’s rule of no touching guns had gone completely out the airlock, Inara was relieved to see Jayne was maintaining some semblance of control.


“You sounded upset,” River whispered.  “And I heard a voice I couldn’t identify.”  Her dark eyes sought Jayne’s.


“I figured as much, so I was listening for ya. You can be mighty quiet when you’ve a mind to be.” He frowned and handed her his cup of hot coffee. O’ course he was upset, he’d come damn close to kissin’ her moments earlier and he was a man who didn’t kiss, no matter how hard a woman made his blood pound. ‘What in the ruttin’ hell did she think? That he was made a’ stone or somethin’?  “Drink that. It’ll warm ya up some.  Nara brought a whole thermos so there’s plenty.”


Inara stood back and watched, unsure what to make of the interaction between Jayne and River: While the girl was eating, he brought her boots from the inner storage room; when their discussion of the Operative’s offer of help made River tremble, Jayne guarded the back of her chair, one of his large hands cupped each of her shoulders giving her support that she absorbed and unconsciously leaned into. 


“Mal wanted you to know that the choice is yours.”  Inara patted River’s hand.


“There is no choice,” the girl took a deep breath, glad for Jayne’s touch as it gave her courage.  Serenity must be saved.” 


“River, you don’t gotta do this.”  He crouched beside her, with one arm slung lightly around her back and the other holding her hand.  “We’ll figure out someways off this rock.”


“It must be done,” she whispered.


“You sure?” Jayne squeezed her shoulder to be sure he had her complete attention.  “I’ll back ya, whatever you decide.”


“I know,” she smiled gently, lost for a moment in the depth of his gaze.  “I appreciate what you are offering, but no, it would be too costly.”  With a slight shake of her head, she forced herself to concentrate on the Companion rather than the man beside her. “Inara, tell the Alliance man I have some conditions.” Now was the time to see if she was dealing from a place of strength or if this was all a ploy to get her back under Blue Sun control. “First, I will not speak with him until after Serenity and her crew are safely on Persephone. Second, until the time we dock there, I will not leave this ship and no one is to come aboard without my authorization.”


“River, you can’t stay aboard Serenity!” Inara cried out. “The ship has more hull breaches than a sieve.  You’d die!”


“If the Operative wants to have a meeting with me, he must think of a way to accomplish the task of moving this ship in such a way that I do not cease to exist.”



“Inara, wait a sec.” Jayne stopped as they approached the cargo bay door.  He’d gone as far as he was gonna go.  If River was gonna stay, so was he.  “You tell Mal what’s goin’ on, I don’t want to leave the girl right now. She’s scared something awful.”


“Alright.” She let her eyes travel over the tough, hard man beside her and realized something was different.  “You plan on staying with her during the transfer, don’t you?”


“Yup, I reckon I do.” He rubbed his hand against the back of his neck.  “It don’t make no sense, but I don’t want her to be alone.”


“You’re a good man Jayne Cobb.” Inara smiled, earning a nasty look from the hulking mercenary.  “Well you are.”


“No I ain’t and don’t you go sayin’ I am.  It’ll ruin my reputation.”


“Well, we wouldn’t want that.” She rolled her eyes and grinned. 


“Wait, there’s something else.”  He shuffled his feet unsure how to say what needed to be said.  He wasn’t a man known for tact, let alone delicacy and this was a matter that needed to be approached delicately.  “The bridge’s an awful mess.  And ahh…Wash, well his body…is stuck. If we tried movin’ the ship without takin care a’ him…we’d…a…rip him apart.” His last words come out on a whisper.


“Ohhh,” Inara sighed and took deep, even breaths.  “I didn’t know.  We have to do something about that.  We can’t…just leave him.”


“It ain’t something I can do by myself. River is strong, but …” He shook his head, again faced with something he didn’t have words for.  In the past his attitude would have been either the kid did her share or she got left behind. Now it was different.  He didn’t know how or why, it just was.


“Jayne…” The Companion watched the big man carefully.  There was something beneath the surface of his worry, something she couldn’t place.  She knew if she weren’t so tired or worried about Mal, it would be clearer.


“It’s gonna be more than a two man job and ain’t no way we can have her workin’ side by side with them soldiers.”  He made his voice sound as gruff as possible in an attempt to stop Inara from lookin’ at him funny.


“You’re most correct.” She shook her head and smiled.  She must be more tired than she’d thought. For a moment there she had believed she’d seen deep concern in Jayne’s eyes. “I think River has just added another condition to her deal with the Alliance.” ‘Nara gave him a tight smile.  “You keep an eye on her and once the Operative assigns a team to help us take care of…of…the body.” She bit her lip to keep from choking. It was hard to relegate Wash to nothing more than flesh and bones, but if she was going to do what needed to be done, it was necessary for her sanity. “I’ll be sure they take good care of what needs to be done on the bridge.”


“Thanks, ‘Nara.”


“You just be sure to keep River occupied and away from any guns while we’re working up there.”




River was as nervous as a cat while Alliance soldiers worked on the bridge under Inara’s watchful eye.  Jayne did his best to keep her occupied, but there wasn’t much to do.  Once they’d checked out the space suits they’d need to wear when the ship was moved, time dragged. It had taken them almost two hours to locate the EVA gear and then carefully inspect each seam, gather point and valve.  Both knew that the pressurized outfits were going to be all that kept them breathing and alive once they left atmo. 


It had driven Jayne nearly crazy to watch the girl as she worked. Every few minutes her body would freeze. She’d close her eyes and sniff the air as if she could smell the noise from above.   Her lips would move and she’d mutter, “out of sight, out of mind.”  Once she no longer had the task of helping to ready the suits, she retreated into a corner of the storage area with her gun in hand and shivered refusing to come out.


Jayne’s patience finally gave out and he grabbed her by the wrist.  “You’re coming with me.”  He was fully aware that if she truly didn’t want to come, she’d deck him and that would be that.  It gladdened his heart and sore muscles that she gave only a token resistance.


“Out of sight, out of mind,” she shouted, as they left the lounge area and headed for the infirmary. 


“You can just stop diggin’ in your heels and talkin’ that nonsense. I got orders from your brother to check out your wounds.”  He pulled her along behind him. His long strides carried them further and further away from the work that was being done on the bridge.  “I promised him I’d take care of you. So stop makin’ it so hard. ‘Sides he wants you to have a tetanus shot and somethin’ else. It says here you should be given a broad…spec…trum…ant-i-biotic.” He squinted at the hastily written note Inara had brought when she’d come with the work crew. “Ya, that’s it, a broad spectrum antibiotic.”  Jayne wasn’t sure what that was, but he knew Simon would die before hurtin’ his sister. “He sent these here instructions.”


“No shots! Please, don’t make me sleep, not while they are aboard.”


“They ain’t that kinda shots and you know it.  Just a tetanus innoc and this other thing so them Reaver bites don’t get infected.”  He turned and saw how pale she’d become at the idea of more medication.  “I’d never make you sleep with those hundans workin’ on the ship, even if ‘Nara is watchin’ em.”  He reached out and brushed a lock of soft brown hair behind her ear.  “Ya gotta trust me.”


“I do, but it’s hard,” she whispered.


“I guess I can understand that.”


The infirmary was a mess.  It looked worse in the gray light of day than it had with only a flashlight the night before.  Even with River’s help it took Jayne twenty minutes to locate everything they needed.


“You sure that’s the right stuff?”  He frowned as he gently cleaned off an area on her upper arm with an antiseptic wipe.


“Yes, tetanus immune globulin,” she pointed to the small words on the sterile pre-dosed syringe of medication. “Must be given intramuscularly,” she nodded her chin to emphasize where Jayne rubbed at her skin.


“Okay, girl, hold real still,” he muttered as he gripped her arm with one hand and the syringe with the other.


“It will not hurt me,” she whispered.  Blue eyes met brown ones from inches away.  River was sitting on the treatment table in the corner so she was almost the same height as Jayne.


The Mercenary bit his lip in confusion.  He’d killed men with ease and thought nothin’ of it, but the idea of stickin’ a needle in the moon-brained girl was eatin’ at his insides.


“It must be done,” River ran her fingers along his goatee to get his attention.  “I could die, painfully, if the medication is needed and not administered.  Do not be afraid.”


“I ain’t afraid of nothin’.” His eyes shot fire and his wrist moved quickly like he was throwin’ a dart, just as the Doc’s instructions had said for him to do.  But he couldn’t help the groan that escaped his lips when the sharp needle broke through her delicate skin and deep into her muscle.  It took all his effort to keep his hand from shaking as he slowly pushed the plunger to administer the injection.


“Now, one more to go.” River moved onto her side and hiked up her skirt.


“Whatcha doin’, girl?”  Jayne blinked in shock as she calmly reclined, one shapely leg bare from hip to the top of her boot. The only concession to decency was a small white strip of cotton panties.


“You must give it to me in my hip.  The medication is much thicker than the tetanus. My deltoid will not absorb it easily.  It must be given in a bigger muscle.”  She pointed to a triangular area on her hip, above her bikini panties, where her bottom flared out from below her waist.  “Here. There are no major blood vessels or nerves in that area.”


“That ain’t right,” Jayne whispered, frozen in place.  He couldn’t take his eyes off her creamy skin or the shapely toned muscle of her leg where it met a firm rounded cotton-covered butt that his hand itched to touch.


“Of course it is correct.  It is the ventrogluteal muscle and very easy to find.  You should place the heel of your hand on my femur…a…hip bone at the top of my thigh.” She reached for his left hand and began to place it on her body as she described the anatomical landmarks he should be feeling.  “Point your thumb toward my groin, with your fingers pointing toward my head.  Form a ‘V’ with your fingers by opening----”


“Stop!” Jayne shouted, interrupting her lecture and jumping back as if his hand were on fire.  His head was spinnin’ at the sight of her rounded, partially clad bottom.  He glared at her and had to keep his hands fisted at his sides to keep from touchin’ again what he knew he shouldn’t be seein’ let alone wantin’.  “What you tryin’ to do, girl?” His words were sharp and harsh.


“I…” She looked over her shoulder at the grim-faced man and her breath caught in her throat.  Suddenly she was surrounded by feelings and needs so strong they made her gasp.  “I was…trying…to…help...”  She carefully sat up as her words slowed.  “Those were...the…words….from….Simon’s….textbooks…….”    Shivering she pulled her skirt carefully over her knees and tucked her legs under her body.  Her words ground to a halt. In her attempt to be cool and clinical, she’d inadvertently inflamed the man’s desires until they surrounded her.  “I…I…didn’t mean…”


“I realize that, but ya gotta remember I ain’t your brother.” His eyes locked with hers telling far more than he realized, though he had complete control over his expression except for a small muscle, which twitched high on his cheek.


River’s eyes were huge and brown and didn’t show a hint of guile.  Jayne knew he’d spent too much time around loose women and the girl in front of him needed protectin’, not seducin’. It took a moment to form the words.  His heart was poundin’ so loud he was sure she could hear it. “Now,” he licked his lips and prayed for control. “I still gotta give ya this here shot, so why don’t you just point to the right spot.”  He hoped his voice sounded calm, because he didn’t want to scare her anymore than necessary.


“Alright,” she whispered as she slid onto her side and arranged her skirt so that only a small area of flesh was showing.  “There.” She pointed to the middle of the exposed area.  She bit her lip to keep from groaning as the viscous antibiotic was injected into her muscle.  It hurt, but she didn’t want Jayne to know that.


“Glad that’s over with,” he sighed. “I sure ain’t cut out to be a doc.” He looked at his big hands and was surprised to see they were steady as a rock.  On the inside it felt as if they was trembling somethin’ terrible.  “Let me have a look at that bite on your shoulder and them scratch marks on your leg.”  They had to get this over with quickly, or he knew he’d lose control.  No matter how many times he told himself that she was too young and too crazy, his body wasn’t listenin’. The evidence of that was hard and throbbin’ and pushin’ to burst outta his cargo pants.


He couldn’t remember wantin’ anything this bad in his entire life.  Usually he took what he wanted, and where women were concerned, he was mighty good at persuadin’, or just produced the credits and bought his way into their beds.  A small part of him kept wanderin’ why River Tam was different.  From what he’d experienced a while back, she’ was willin’.  It didn’t make no sense that he was the one backin’ off.


“I can take care of my injuries, myself.”  River moved carefully off the table and out of Jayne’s reach. The room was alive with electrical current that warmed her blood and frightened her. “I think it would be best if I cleaned them in the shower like last night.”


They looked at one another across the width of the infirmary.  Jayne wanted to put some distance between them and it appeared as if she did as well.  There was a pinched look around her eyes and mouth that the mercenary didn’t understand. Something about it made him take slow measured steps toward her, until she was only inches away.


“You sure ‘bout that, girl?”  He looked down at her with heavy-lidded blue eyes. His hands were on his hips, thumbs stuck in his belt.  “That water hasn’t warmed up any since last night.”  He throbbed with sensuality and both were caught in its trap.


“I know, but it would be best,” she whispered.  Something pounded against her skin and made her belly tighten until she began to tremble.


“Then you better git to it.”  He nodded still watching her every expression.  When she couldn’t tear her eyes from his, his face darkened and so did his voice.  “Girl, if you’re gonna git, I suggest you do it right now.”  Damn he wanted her and if she didn’t stop lookin’ at him like that, he was gonna take her.  “I said git,” he growled.


With his last words, she turned and fled.  As she moved through Serenity she was aware of Jayne following her with slow easy steps.  When she reached the communal shower, she ran in and slammed the door.  Once the water was turned on high, she curled on the floor beside it and wept.  The shaft of feeling she’d received from him had been sudden and sharp.  It made her dizzy and ache in places that only the Alliance had been able to control in the past.  But instead of wanting to fight as they had trained her to do, she wanted something much more.  She was left feeling cold and alone, throbbing with longings she didn’t know what to do with.


When he’d almost kissed her earlier, she’d promised herself that they would talk, but now she didn’t know where to start.  She’d only been trying to help, not entice when he needed to give her the injection.  It made no sense. Her body made no sense, and all she could do was cry.  It didn’t help that she could feel his presence on the other side of the door, keeping watch, as he’d promised her last night he would.

Go back to index for link to part II of this chapter


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2006 06:21 am (UTC)
Very wonderful chapter! I feel the emotions coming through so clearly. The fear, budding desire, etc. all are captured beautifully. Your character voices and actions are very vivid as well.
Mar. 26th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. I'm glad you're enjoying this story and it is nice to know what I'm doing right.
Mar. 31st, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
another wow. you capture the emotion so well. so striking and believable. love the tension and the building of the relationship.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )



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